Ferries are docked at the San Francisco Bay Ferry’s, Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility, in Alameda, Calif. on Sunday May 30, 2021. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

San Francisco Bay Ferry service relaunched Thursday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began nearly 16 months ago, beginning with greater service levels, new routes and cheaper fares.

For the next year, one-way fares from the East Bay to San Francisco are $4.50 with Clipper or mobile tickets, and trips from Vallejo to San Francisco will cost $9. Further discounted fares will be available to students, older adults, people with disabilities and others who qualify.

There is also new service to and from the recently built Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal in Alameda, where the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

Jim Wunderman, chair of the WETA board of directors, said investing in new ridership populations in the Alameda and Oakland area is a part of the agency’s aggressive approach to regain momentum as society reopens again.

“Over the past decade, San Francisco Bay Ferry was celebrated as a major success story. The pandemic interrupted that progress, but today’s relaunch is putting us back on track,” Wunderman said.

The $23 million terminal is strategically placed away from cargo ship traffic to provide 20-minute commutes to and from downtown San Francisco and Alameda. It’s conveniently accessible via foot or bike through the Bay Trail and Cross Alameda Trail, and AC Transit is also launching Line 78 as a pilot project next month to help connect passengers to the terminal from BART’s Fruitvale station in Oakland.

“The Line 78 pilot project will play an important role in encouraging commuters into San Francisco to take public transportation instead of their cars. And fewer cars on the road means less traffic congestion and cleaner air for everyone,” said Elsa Ortiz, president of the AC Transit board of directors.

Vallejo and Richmond rides will increase in frequency, and the Harbor Bay ferry route will resume service. This Saturday kicks off weekend service for the Oakland & Alameda route and the Richmond and Vallejo routes. More information on route schedules and fares can be found via sanfranciscobayferry.com/bestwayback.

“With Alameda County beginning to reopen and more of our residents returning to work, this is an ideal time for the opening of the Alameda Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal,” said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. “This project will provide increased transportation options, reduce traffic congestion, and serve as a catalyst for transit-oriented development at Alameda Point.”